Najma Ahmed – South Africa

Najma Ahmed – South Africa

Date: June 26, 2012
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When Najma Ahmed, a councillor now in her second term in the Msunduzi Municipality, was approached by the Democratic Alliance in South Africa to stand as a candidate in one of the wards in the 2000 elections she was overwhelmed and excited.

“It never struck me that I would be popular or that I would be fully recognised or wanted, but I said, what’s there to lose, if I can make a difference in somebody’s life, why not?” I stand for good clean governance, I want to be accountable and really try and put a smile on somebody’s face and to really reach out to people.”

So she stood as a ward candidate against a male candidate and won. She spoke about the campaign and the importance of being honest: “When campaigning you have to be yourself and gain the people’s trust, you don’t have put up fancy stuff and camouflage, people can read you and see through you generally. That’s my strongest quality being concerned about people and showing interest, that’s important in any sphere of life, you can’t be false.”

In June of 2006 Ahmed had just been elected as a PR councillor for the ANC. Previously a councillor for the DA she left the party because she felt that she was not being recognised for her work and that she was more aligned to the ideologies of the ANC. A male DA councillor Peter Green had won the ward seat. Being a PR councillor means that she is no longer responsible for a particular ward. As a PR councillor she goes where she is deployed by her party or where she is needed. She says that she still has constituents from her previous ward her calling for assistance, “I can’t say no or turn people away, where I can help I do, if I can’t I refer them to the ward councillor. If they fail with him they come back to me”.

A women focus group meeting with some of her previous constituents reflected how much they had valued her leadership. During her time as ward councillor they said that they had “very definitely” seen changes with becoming more visible. They described her as “a peoples person; not out or up there.” If you had a problem “you phoned her and the problem got sorted.”

The constituents described the new councillor as “male and very absent, conspicuous by his absence, we haven’t seen him.” Waste in the area, which Ahmed used to deal with had resurfaced as a problem: “you phone and nothing is done.” The residents said that they were able to network better with a woman than a male councillor: “Women have more feeling; they are more personal, when something gets discussed with them they react. When you discuss it with a man, unless it’s going to bring honour and glory to him he’s not interested. Women have an ear, they hear. They always call back and follow up.”

The group of women felt let down by their new male councillor: “Promises and promises but they never deliver. The only person we’ve ever seen taking her promises seriously is Councillor Ahmed. They promise the earth to get our vote and then you never see or hear from them again – nothing is done.”

Men constituents in the same area pointed to fundamental differences in Ahmed and Green’s leadership style and sense of priorities. Ahmed, they noted spent a lot of time helping individual people with problems. In contrast Green spends less time on that and more time on policy and promoting the interests of business. They too had not met or spoken to Green.

The main difference between the two councillors, they said, is that women are accessible and empathetic: “You can get to her; she has empathy and can feel for the problem because she can relate to the problem.” When they had problems with the health system Councillor Ahmed had been the one to sit at the hospital and sort things out; “she gives more than the average eight to five councillor. She has become a role model.”

Asked about the differences between women and men councillors at local level more broadly one male participant said: “Women seem to know more about the socio-economic upliftment of communities because they understand, they are more competent and less confrontational and they find solutions to a lot of the problems and look at things from a different perspective.”


3 thoughts on “Najma Ahmed – South Africa”

Leona Beyers says:

She is worthy vote for her

Iqbal Khan says:

Najma Ahmed is born to serve the community and no party politics drives her to accomplish a task. It’s a really travesty that one has to be aligned to a party to get some semblance of work done. She should have her own “let’s deliver first” party akin to the Gift of the Givers! I have experienced first hand her dynamism and efficacy and with her at the helm, Chase Valley will be restored to its pristine self with amenities precluding nobody!

Mariam Cassimjer says:

Outstanding in her handling of problems resulting in fruitful solutions.
An admirable soul to whom I look up to as she has always followed up on disruptions of electricity, water & other important matters. Her timeous feedback & phone calls have many times given relief to enduring irksome situations in the delivery of municipal services.
Hats off to Mrs Najma Ahmed!

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